What's Included in a Physical Therapist Assessment for SI Joint Pain?
All physical therapists have different approaches to therapy, and there is no one best practice for physical therapists that treat SI joint dysfunctions. Your physical therapist will likely create an individualized plan based on your health history.
The list below includes areas that a physical therapist may consider when evaluating your sacroiliac joint pain. Based on your medical history, personal goals, physical therapy evaluation, and the referring physician’s recommendations, the PT will develop a plan to help you achieve your objectives.
- Assessment of your posture, the positions you sit and sleep in, and how you use your body for certain daily activities (often called body mechanics).
- Assessment of any abnormalities with your walking pattern (gait), especially those caused by muscles in your buttocks or hip.
- Assessment of your muscle strength and muscle balance. Strength is the ability of your muscles to contract and produce force. This would include muscles in your torso and legs.50 Muscle imbalance is present when the muscles on one side of the body are stronger or weaker than the corresponding muscles on the opposite side of the body. When muscle imbalance is present the physical therapist may instruct you in specific exercises to improve muscle balance and correct muscle weakness.
- Assessment of the strength of the muscles that increase the stability of your sacroiliac joint (often called your “core” muscles).28,33,34,50,54,55,56,57
- Assessment of your muscle length balance. Muscle length imbalance is present when muscles on one side of a bony structure are longer than the muscles on the other side of a bony structure and cause an imbalanced pull on the bone. This would include muscles of the back, thigh and hip. If imbalance is present, the physical therapist may instruct you in stretching exercises to address muscle length differences.30,31,32,58,59
- Assessment with the physical therapist’s hands (often called palpation) of the muscles and tissues surrounding your sacroiliac joint for local tenderness or pain.
- Assessment of joints and muscles above or below the sacroiliac joint that may cause limitations in your movement. This may include the, lower and upper back, hip, knee, and ankle regions.
- Assessment of your sacroiliac joint with the use of special tests called “provocative tests” which are meant to stress the joint and re-create the typical painful symptom coming from your SI joint.6,8,9
- Assessment of your home and work environment, your health habits, activity level and your leisure and recreational interests.
Any physical therapy treatment should be individualized for each patient’s needs based on their individual evaluation, pre-existing and co-existing conditions, and the recommendations of their physical therapist and referring physician.
What Causes Pain in the Lower Back, Buttocks, or Pelvic Region?
Low back pain is a common symptom that affects many people during their lifetime. For some, low back pain can be an acute, short-term problem. Others experience chronic, long-term symptoms. Appropriate testing can show whether the pain is from the hip, spine, or SI joint.